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Syria's 29-year Military Presence in Lebanon Ends

Syria has ended its 29-year military presence in Lebanon, with an official farewell ceremony near the border.

The last Syrian soldiers and intelligence agents left Lebanon Tuesday, ending three decades of Syria's direct involvement in its small neighbor. The final 250 Syrian troops crossed the border at Masnaa, where they were welcomed by cheering crowds in the streets of Jedeidit Yabous.

Top military officials and several hundred soldiers from both countries attended Tuesday's official farewell ceremony.

Syria's chief of staff General Ali Habib declared that Damascus has fulfilled its obligations under a U.N. Security Council resolution that called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Lebanon.

The Syrian pullout came a few days earlier than the promised April 30th deadline.

A general view of Lebanese opposition protesters tent camp where some activists are vowing to maintain a vigil until the last Syrian soldier leaves the country at the Beirut's Martyrs' Square
Meanwhile in Beirut, security forces briefly scuffled with about 25 people demonstrating near the parliament building to demand the release of Lebanese prisoners held in Syrian jails.

One unnamed protestor reacted, "We are not moving out of here until we get a result. We are telling all the nations, from A to Z, we want our family from Syria. Enough is enough."

There is no exact figure on how many Lebanese political prisoners Syria is holding.

Lebanese human rights groups and families of prisoners say they have records of at least 176 Lebanese in Syrian jails, many of who have been there for more than a decade.

Damascus denies the existence of any Lebanese in Syrian prisons and claims the 46 detainees freed in December 2000 were the last to be released.